Is the common man suffering amid war between Maharashtra government and Railways?

Updated: 31 October, 2020 08:20 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Government accuses central officials of undermining its efforts to provide relief to Mumbaikars, while railways insists it needs state cooperation in crowd-control

The state government is expected to strongly lodge its displeasure with the railways. File pic
The state government is expected to strongly lodge its displeasure with the railways. File pic

After the increased friction over the resumption of suburban railway services for all commuters, the state government and the railways are likely to meet next week to ease the tension. 

The latest tussle began after the suburban railways said that the state has to develop solutions to streamline crowds and that it can only carry about 27.5 per cent or 22 lakh passengers at full capacity instead of the usual 80 lakh amid COVID-19 protocols.

However, before any solution is found, the government is expected to strongly lodge its displeasure over the alleged leaking of the letters it sent to the railways.

"The state government's letter on Wednesday was confidential and was hand-delivered to the railways. The letter proposed much-needed relief for the people. Like previous letters, this letter was also leaked to the media," said a senior official from the state's disaster management mechanism.

To allow trains for all commuters, the state government had proposed six slots, including hourly ladies special trains. As per the proposed schedule, from first local in the morning till 7.30 am any person with a valid ticket or pass can travel. From 8 am to 10.30 am, only those in essential services can take the local. From 11 am to 4.30 pm, anybody with a valid ticket or pass can take the train. Essential workers can again avail the services from 5 to 7.30 pm. The services can again be availed by anyone from 8 pm till the last train.

The railways responded to the state on Thursday, rejecting the state's proposal on technical grounds and COVID-19 protocol. State government officials have not found the railways' response amusing. "Railways did it when we allowed women to travel without QR codes during specific time slots. They asked us for a solution and data.

Did we write back to them? No, we did not, because the railways have it all and can implement every plan if the officials are willing," said another senior bureaucrat in the state government. He said the railway officials didn't even remember the meetings with state officials during which the date for allowing women commuters on trains was decided.

Police bandobast seen at Borivli railway station on the day all women were allowed on local trains. PIC/SATEJ SHINDE
Police bandobast seen at Borivli railway station on the day all women were allowed on local trains. PIC/SATEJ SHINDE

Without mentioning a recent incident when the Western Railway had to change the 'unpleasant' tone of a letter it sent to the state government, the state bureaucrat said the government was consistent in its tone and content while writing to the railways. "We will have the same approach while dealing with this problem also. We're waiting for our minister to come to Mumbai and issue instructions regarding having a meeting with the railways," the bureaucrat added.

What railways says

Railway officials from both, CR and WR, refused to comment on the accusations and get into a controversy. They said that they would require the support of the state machinery to manage and streamline crowds. "Once trains open, it will be important to stagger crowds. The Maharashtra government should quickly decide on technological solutions to stagger the rush," an official said.

What commuters say

"It is the common man who is suffering amid the war between railways and state. The Maharashtra government should implement staggered office timings to reduce the crowd in trains. This will solve overcrowding in local trains permanently. The lockdown could be a blessing for Mumbaikars if such a mechanism is implemented," said Himanshu Vartak, who is the consultative committee member for Palghar station.

Inputs by Rajendra B. Aklekar

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First Published: 31 October, 2020 07:00 IST

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